Bombay High Court directs Goa to notify Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby areas as tiger reserve within three months

In a 94-page order, the court passed several directions, including preparation of a tiger conservation plan, setting up anti-poaching camps, and settling the claims of forest dwellers

Updated - July 24, 2023 06:26 pm IST

Published - July 24, 2023 06:22 pm IST - Mumbai

The court also directed the State government to take all steps to prepare a tiger conservation plan as contemplated by the Wildlife Protection Act

The court also directed the State government to take all steps to prepare a tiger conservation plan as contemplated by the Wildlife Protection Act | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on July 24 directed the Government of Goa to notify the 208 sq. km. Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) and its surrounding areas as a tiger reserve, and issue a notification within three months.

The Division Bench of Justices M.S. Sonak and Bharat Deshpande was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Goa Foundation, a local NGO seeking direction to the Goa Government to notify the tiger reserves of the State as requested by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

“If there is no forest, then the tiger gets killed; if there is no tiger, then the forest gets destroyed. Hence, the tiger protects the forest, and the forest guards the tiger!” the court said, quoting a Sanskrit verse from the Mahabharata, emphasising the importance of tiger conservation.

“The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that 3,726 to 5,578 tigers live in the wild worldwide. Out of these, the tiger population in India, as per the 2023 Tiger Census, is estimated at 3,167. In 1947, at the time of Independence of India, the estimate [of tigers in the wild] in India was 40,000 tigers. Therefore, in less than 76 years, the tiger population has decreased by almost 92%,” the Bench noted.

In the 94-page order, the court passed several directions. “We direct the State Government to notify the Mhadei WLS and other areas referred to in NTCA’s communications (and the plans prepared by the Goa Forest Department Officials) as a tiger reserve under within three months,” the court said.

The court also directed the State government to take all steps to prepare a tiger conservation plan as contemplated by the Wildlife Protection Act, and to forward it to the NTCA within three months from notifying the Mhadei WLS and other areas as a tiger reserve.

The Bench went on to direct the State government to set up anti-poaching camps at strategic locations, to be staffed by forest guards, watchers, etc., in the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the State of Goa, and said this must be completed within six months.

The court also directed the State government to determine and settle the rights and claims of the Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers, following the law as expeditiously as possible and “preferably within 12 months from today [Monday, July 24, 2023]”.

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